Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moyà(1997, second edition with afterword, 2007, forthcoming in English 2016)

Upon  finishing Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Moyà I was left with a wish to read more of the author's work and a fervent desire to never go to the country of El Salvador and especially the capital city, San Salvador.  Never have I read a work of fiction or fact more full of hatred for a place, more replete with complete contempt and loathing for the whole population of a city.  

A man is sitting in a bar in San Salvador next to a writer he knows.  The man left the city, where he was born and grew up, eighteen years ago.  He has only returned because his mother left him a half interest in her house, his brother has the other half, on condition he return for her funeral.  The man begins a monologue, very much in the style of Thomas Bernhard, about how horrible everyone in San Salvador acts.  In a city with terrible problems, I think it has one of highest murder rates in the world, he sees every man as willing to kill him for a few dollars, or if he has no money, just for the fun of killing.  He goes on and on about how horrible the local beer tastes, how the food revolts him.  He starts in on his brother goes off on him and his wife really viciously.  Like most Bernhard monologuists, he is very snobbish and sees himself as quite cultured.  He is a professor of art history at a Canadian university. His most precious possession and his talisman against the evils, filth, corruption, degradation of his birth country is his Canadian passport.  

It may not sound like it but the book is really funny.  His brother, in the locksmith business, takes him and another man out on the town.  They start in a disco, the other man starts talking on and on about all the girls he has picked up there, going into great detail on his sexual prowess.  The narrator would sooner have sex with a pig than a woman from San Salvador.  They end the evening in a brothel.  He is horrified by the repulsive women who try to come on to him.  There is a description of his eight hour plane ride from Canada to San Salvador, sitting between two returning natives that makes your worst flights seem like first class on Singapore Airlines.

The narrator hates everything and everyone in the city.  Just when you think he cannot get more vitriolic he does.  He does not just hate those in the city, he looks with total loathing on the many El Salvadorians who have settled in Los Angleses.  

I enjoyed this book a lot.    If you like the works of Thomas Bernhard, maybe taken up a notch, you will for sure like this book.  It is very x rated for language.  The author has a Swiftian repulsion for human eliminative matter and he compares eating the local food unfavorably to that.  Under it all we wonder why he has such hatred for his roots?  Can a whole country and all those who live there, including his brothers two young sons who he calls pernicious vermin, all be horrible?  

This edition includes an interesting afterward by the author.  Needless to say, he is not on the board of the San Salvador Toiurism Commission.

Translated by Lee Klein, it is forthcoming in English in 2016.

I received a review copy of this book.  

Author Bio

Born in Honduras, he has lived in San Salvador, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico (where he spent ten years as a journalist, editor, and political analyst), Spain, and Germany. In 1988 he won the National Novel Prize from Central American University for his first novel. His work has been published and translated in England, Germany, El Salvador and Costa Rica. He has published ten novels and is now living in exile as part of the City of Asylum project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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